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Nearly Two Dozen Homeless People Died in Santa Monica Last Year; Rate was Higher than County's

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica Convention and Visitors

By Jorge Casuso

May 6, 2019 -- One died of an accidental overdose on a Santa Monica sidewalk. Another was stabbed to death in a walkway. A third hung himself in a shed.

They were among the 22 homeless people living in Santa Monica who died in 2018, none of them older than 65, according to an analysis of death records provided by the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office.

The records requested by The Lookout under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) offer a glimpse of the tentative lives led by the 957 homeless people counted in Santa Monica in 2018.

That's 2,299 deaths per 100,000 population, or nearly triple the national death rate of 849.3 deaths per 100,000 reported for the overall U.S. population by the National Center for Health Statistics.

It's also higher than the homeless death rate for Los Angeles County, where 918 of the County's 53,195 homeless persons died in 2018, or 1.7 percent, according to an article last month in the Los Angeles Times.

By comparison, 2.3 percent of Santa Monica's homeless died last year.

That was up from the 14 who died the previous year, when the annual homeless census counted 921 homeless persons living in the upscale beach city.

Homeless man on the beach
Homeless man on the beach (Photos courtesy City of Santa Monica)

Profiles in Death

The coroner's list provides a vivid snapshot of those who live on Santa Monica's streets and the causes of their deaths, all of them before reaching the average U.S. life expectancy of 78.6 years.

Of the 22 homeless persons who died last year, nine -- all between the ages of 51 and 65 -- died of natural causes.

Eight of the deaths were accidental, and three were homicides. One was a suicide, and the other a drowning that may have been a suicide.

Sixteen of those who died were male and four were female; they were between 19 and 65 years old with an average age of 48 and a half.

Of the 22, nine were white, eight were black, two were Hispanic and one was Middle Eastern.

That was a radical departure from the racial makeup of the 14 homeless persons who died in Santa Monica in 2017.

Of those, one was black, one was Hispanic, one was Japanese and one was Middle Eastern. The rest were white.

In 2018, seven homeless persons died in hospitals, and five died on the city's sidewalks.

The other eight each died in a motel, a walkway, a parking lot, an apartment, a rehab center, a shed, the beach and in the ocean.

Nine died from drug or alcohol use. Of those, four had taken methamphetamine (two of them in combination with another drug), two died of alcohol abuse, one of chronic ethanol abuse and another of an overdose of PCP (phencyclidine).

One of those who died, a 34-year-old white man, hung himself on November 9 at 8:34 a.m. in a shed on the 1200 block of 5th Street.

Another, a 37-year-old black man, drowned off the Santa Monica Pier shortly before midnight on March 9.

His death by drowning was ruled a suicide by Santa Monica police, but the Coroner lists the cause of death as undetermined ("Man Who Jumped from Santa Monica Pier Identified, Ruled a Suicide," March 12, 2018).

The two youngest homeless persons who died in 2018 -- a 19-year-old white man and a 26-year-old white woman -- both died from methamphetamine use.

The man died in an apartment near the City Yards of the combined effects of fentanyl and methamphetamine; the woman died at the UCLA Medical Center from complications from methamphetamine abuse.

The other three homeless women all died in hospitals -- one from heart disease, one from a blood clot in the lung and the third from "acute and chronic alcohol dependence." They were 60, 59 and 50 years old, respectively.

No homeless women died in Santa Monica in 2017.

Homeless man lying on the street

Homeless Homicides

While these deaths passed mostly unnoticed, the three homicides made headlines in the local, and in one case, the national press.

The first -- a stabbing -- took place on July 6 in a walkway on the grounds of Saint John's Medical Center, where hospital staff found the body of a 41-year-old homeless man slumped on a park bench ("Suspect Arrested, Victim Identified in Killing on Hospital Grounds in Santa Monica," July 9, 2018).

Two days later, police arrested Daniel Roy Davis, 29, after linking him to the fatal stabbing.

The second homicide victim died September 30 in a Santa Monica hospital, where he had been in a coma since he was brutally beaten with a bolt cutter on September 24 near Downtown, police said.

That death was not included in the Coroner's list because it has been placed on security hold by law enforcement, said Sarah Ardalani, the Coroner's Public Information Officer.

The suspect, Ramon Escobar, 47, was located in the 600 block of Broadway later that morning and arrested ("Suspect Arrested for Assault Monday in Santa Monica Could Be Responsible for String of Murders," September 25, 2018).

He was charged with four murders, two of them in Santa Monica, in a killing spree that drew widespread attention.

The third homicide took place at 9 p.m. on October 3, when a homeless man was fatally stabbed on a bench in Tongva Park ("Man Fatally Stabbed on Park Bench Across from Santa Monica City Hall," October 4, 2018).

The suspect, 21-year-old Joseph Ramirez Perez, was booked on one count of murder and one count of assault with a deadly weapon.

No homeless person was killed in Santa Monica in 2017.

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